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Notes on the Geography of Burma / Myanmar: Mottama

Mottama (colonial Martaban) is the end of the road and railroad; it's also on the right bank of the great Salween, across whose mouth ferries cross to Mawlamyine (Moulmein). There's not much town in the town, but there's a lot of activity, all tied to the boats and the traffic on them.

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Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 1

Main Street. Martaban was once a famous name, referring to the Gulf of Martaban as well as the town. But this is the center of the town today: it doesn't get any fancier than this.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 2

An elegant doorstep into a shack near one of the many ferry docks.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 3

A roof of leaves; woven walls.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 4

Riverboats come in an immense variety, including this magnificent teak vessel.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 5

Lighter boats, heavily powered.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 6

The passenger terminus of the railway from Yangon.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 7

Box car.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 8

The dock of the train ferry. The breadth of the Salween can be judged here.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 9

The track starts again at Mawlamyine and continues far to the south.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 10

Most heavy freight moves by truck ferry, however. Here's the line-up, with sailings dependent on the tides.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 11

At low tide, the ferry was almost at the end of the ramp, and the truck made half a dozen runs before it made it up, pulled by another truck to which it was tied by a cable.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 12

The same ferry terminal at a quieter moment.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 13

Downstream a few hundred yards but just above the rail ferry, there's a floating dock serving foot passengers, many of whom carry head loads of freight unloaded from trucks that come to the terminal.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 14

Waiting to board.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 15

Ferry's in!

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 16

Note the bamboo sticks, proof of how many sacks the porter carried to the ferry.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 17

No gender discrimination here. The heavy sunscreen is a vegetable paste worn by most women.

Burma / Myanmar: Mottama picture 18

The same dock seen on the approach from Mawlamyine, with another passenger ferry leaving the Mottama side. The ferries aren't in tiptop shape: mechanical rudder controls, for example, are broken and replaced by lengths of nylon rope.


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